Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 286

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

Alan Levy’s departs race for Florida GOP chair

Although he hasn’t received that much media coverage, Lafayette County state committeeman Alan Levy has been running over the past month to replace Blaise Ingoglia as chair of the Republican Party of Florida.

Make that “had” been running, as Levy announced on Monday that he was dropping out of the race, and now will be running for Vice Chairman.

In a letter to executive committee members, Levy said his candidacy was always centered on accomplishing four goals. Those included rebuilding party membership, recruiting and assembling an entirely new base of state party donors, utilizing state-of-the-art technology, and ending the battle between the House of Representatives against Senate leadership and Governor Rick Scott.

That last goal of bringing all of the Republicans back together under the same tent is also a central tenet in the platform that Sarasota County committeeman Christian Ziegler is basing much of his candidacy up. But Levy now says that Ingoglia has now “successfully led a reconciliation between leaders of the House and Senate,” and thus at least part of his reasons for running have already been accomplished.

“I congratulate Chairman Ingoglia on his efforts,” Levy says. “Now that Governor Scott intends to run in 2018 for the U.S. Senate, it’s reasonable to anticipate he’ll join our legislative leaders once again in working with the state party.”

That’s not known at this time, but ever since Ingoglia upset Leslie Dougher, Scott’s hand picked selection as RPOF chair two years ago, the governor has taken his money and gone his own way, creating Let’s Get to Work, his own political committee, where he’s raised more than $2.9 million in first 11 months of 2016.

“Over the last two months while talking with party members many expressed their concern that I might abandon my goals if unsuccessful in my race for Chairman,” Levy wrote. “I promised I would do my best to see my goals enacted. However, now that there’s renewed cooperation between our state leaders, I believe I can still achieve these goals without turning the race for State Chairman into a free-for-all.”

The election for RPOF Chairman takes place this Saturday in Orlando.

Democratic Black Caucus backs Dwight Bullard for FDP Chair

The Democratic Black Caucus of Florida (DBCF) is endorsing Dwight Bullard in the race for Florida Democratic Party chair.

“I am honored and humbled to have the support and vote of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida,” Bullard said in a statement. “I know with your support we can build a Florida Democratic Party that returns power to the people, and ensures all voices are heard.”

The DBCF represents black voters within the Florida Democratic Party, who make up over 32 percent of the statewide Democratic vote.

Bullard is the only person of color running in the five person field in the race to succeed Allison Tant this coming weekend in Orlando. After losing out to Stephen Bittel to become a state committeeman in Miami-Dade County last month which seemingly ended his hopes to run for state chair, Bullard temporarily moved to  Gadsden County, where he was selected to serve as its state committeeman, keeping his eligibility alive.

Tampa’s Alan Clendenin did the same thing, moving to Bedford County in North Florida after he lost his bid to become state committeeman in Hillsborough County last month.

Osceola County Democratic Executive Committee chair Leah Carius, and Duval County committeewoman Lisa King round out the field.

 

Kathy Castor calls on GOP not to repeal ACA without a viable replacement

When Christine Roeper was about to turn 26 last year and thus no longer be eligible to stay on her parents health care insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act, she says she contacted the navigators based at USF to help her find a plan.

“I definitely do need health insurance,” Roeper said on Monday at a news conference called by Tampa Democratic Representative Kathy Castor. “I have a heart condition called mitro valve regurgitation, so that requires even more doctor visits and different medications and different procedures. Without the ACA, I wouldn’t be able to afford insurance. It costs me a dollar to get medicine, a couple of dollars to see a doctor. It’s been phenomenal.”

Greg Robinson was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of blood cancer in October of 2015, and underwent extensive chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant to “essentially save my life” at Moffitt Cancer Center.He’s always been able to receive insurance through his employer,  but he says that the thought of his insurer no longer having to carry a patient with pre-existing conditions – a key tenet of the ACA- is something he calls “terrifying.”

The two Hillsborough County residents spoke at a news conference organized by Castor at Royal Sun Park, an assisted living facility located in North Tampa.

The Tampa Democrat has been a huge supporter of the ACA since Barack Obama signed it into law in 2010. With congressional Republicans poised to repeal parts of the ACA as early as this month, she says she’ll continue to hold press events bringing forth those who would be deleteriously affected if the plan goes away without a viable replacement. ‘We’re saying, Republican congress, don’t throw our families into chaos,” Castor said. “Don’t proceed on this ideological repeal plan without a replacement.”

While House and Senate Republicans remain relatively firm on repealing the ACA as soon as possible, no one has said how long it might take before a working alternative will replace it. There has been speculation that it could be as long as two to three more years before a completely new plan could be viable.

Although talk of repealing the ACA has been in the headlines for the past week, “enrollment again is off the charts” says Jodi Ray, principal investigator for the USF Navigator grant, which works towards signing the noninsured on to a health care plan.

“We’ve been busy,” Ray said, adding that the numbers of people signing up to get the ACA in 2017 has exceeded last year’s numbers. Ray said that there are at least 280,000 individuals from the Tampa Bay area on the ACA, with at least a third of them being Hispanic.

“We’re reaching women, students, folks who are in rural areas who are hard to get to,” Ray said. “We’re working nights and weekends and we are seeing consumers that are having their life changed … because they have access to health care now, and they didn’t have access to health care prior. Overall, 1.7 million Floridians are now on the ACA.

There is an immediate deadline of next Sunday, January 15, for people to begin getting coverage by February 1. The next deadline comes at the end of this month to begin qualifying for any type of health insurance this year.

Although there has been very little specific information about what a replacement health insurance program would look like, there has been renewed discussion of changing the way that the Medicaid funding formula works, with the money ultimately going to the states as a block grant.

“When you hear block grant, or per capita cap, or greater flexiblty, what that really means is you’re not going to have the same amount of money, your families are going to be left out in the cold, they’re not going to have a place to go for skilled nursing or assisted living care,” said Castor. “It’s something of a shell game that will leave our families out in the cold.”

Castor says she does believe she can work with Republicans on some improvements to the program without throwing it all out. She says working on controlling the costs of pharmaceuticals and working on bringing greater competition in those areas of the country that have seen exponentially large premium increases (because in some cases there is only one insurance company available) as two viable examples.

While Castor was making her case to save the ACA, Rick Scott was weighing in as well, applauding congressional Republicans for working immediately to dismantle the program.

“For far too long, it has been fashionable in Washington to say Obamacare can only be tweaked,” Scott wrote to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “The impact of Obamacare has been devastating in Florida and our nation. Obamacare was sold on a lie from the very start. Costs are skyrocketing, people have not been able to keep their doctors and many people have fewer doctors to choose from. The increases in health care costs are at a 32-year high and are expected to continue increasing in the coming months. Recent news of Obamacare rates rising 25 percent is absurd and families simply cannot afford it. We can do better and the families and businesses footing the bill deserve better.”

Carlos Lopez-Cantera endorses Blaise Ingoglia for RPOF Chair

Florida Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera is the latest high profile Republican to back Blaise Ingoglia in his bid for re-election to be the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

“I have been active in the RPOF for 20 years and I cannot recall a chairman that has shown the commitment and dedication to the Republican Party of Florida as Blaise Ingoglia,” Lopez-Cantera said in a statement issued out by Ingoglia on Monday. “That is why I am proud to stand behind him for his reelection as our Chairman, and I encourage our entire Republican Party of Florida to do the same.”

Lopez-Cantera joins his fellow cabinet member, CFO Jeff Atwater, in backing Ingoglia in his election bid. The other members of the cabinet – Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam – have yet to weigh in on the race.

Ingoglia is being challenged by Sarasota committeeman Christian Ziegler for the position.  Governor Rick Scott has also to weigh in, but he and Ingoglia have never been on the same page, ever since Ingoglia defeated Scott’s hand picked choice for chair, Leslie Dougher, two years ago.

The Senate Republicans and Scott still fundraise separately from the party, an issue that Ziegler has seized on as part of his candidacy. Ingoglia responds that while fundraising is down with the RPOF, it’s still going to the same places to help Republicans win races, and he points to the state turning red with Donald Trump as the most concrete proof that he’s on the right track in leading the party.

Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a good friend of Lopez-Cantera, has also previously endorsed Ingoglia.

In his statement, the Lieutenant Governor said that he has traveled tens of thousands of miles across the Sunshine State in his duties to meet with Republicans, and says more than he can remember, Ingoglia was always there too.

“As a former State Committeeman for Miami-Dade I can’t tell you how much I appreciate a Chairman who travels the state spending time at local REC events all the while seeking input on building up our local parties, meeting with grassroots leaders and then putting those ideas into action,” Lopez-Cantera said.

The election for the RPOF chair takes place this Saturday in Orlando.  A third candidate in the race, Lafayette County Republican state committeeman Alan Levy, has announced that he is withdrawing from the race.

Jeff Brandes’ legislation would reform why state suspends driver’s licenses

Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes is once again filing a bill that would prevent Floridians from having their driver’s licenses suspended for a reason unrelated to a driving violation.

The legislation would reduce the number of offenses for which license suspension is prescribed and prohibit suspensions for those who show in court an inability to pay fines and fees. St. Petersburg Democrat Daryl Rouson is co-sponsoring.

“Florida suspends hundreds of thousands of licenses each year, often because a person is saddled with debt for fines that may have nothing to do with driving,” Brandes said in a statement.

“With compounding fees and collections costs, the prospect of reinstating a license may seem insurmountable to some of the poorest in our communities,” he added. “This bill provides people with an opportunity to regain mobility, find employment, and get their lives back on track.”

Brandes introduced a similar bill during last year’s session that didn’t make its way out of the the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said he did so after reading reports showing that more than 1.2 million driver’s license suspensions occur annually in Florida.

A study conducted in 2014 said that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles suspended 1.3 million driver’s licenses in fiscal year 2012-13, and 167,000 were for non-driving reasons, such as failure to pay fines or court fees or child support.

An August, 2015 report in the Miami Herald found that 77 percent of all license suspensions in Florida between 2012 and 2015 occurred because of a failure to pay fees.

A similar bill was proposed in the House last year by Rouson and was co-sponsored by Republicans Dana Young from Tampa and Sarasota’s Greg Steube. All three of those members have moved on to the Senate this year, presupposing there could be support for the bill there.

The bill will likely have a negative impact on local tax collectors and clerks of court who retain a portion of revenues from certain driver’s license sanctions when issuing reinstatements, in addition to other fees retained by them associated with license suspensions and revocations. That was an issue with the bill last year.

US veteran arrested in Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting; 5 dead, 8 wounded

An Army veteran who complained that the government was controlling his mind drew a gun from his checked luggage on arrival at the Fort Lauderdale airport and opened fire in the baggage claim area Friday, killing five people and wounding eight, authorities said.

He was taken into custody after throwing his empty weapon down and lying spread-eagle on the ground, one witness said.

“People started kind of screaming and trying to get out of any door they could or hide under the chairs,” the witness, Mark Lea, told MSNBC. “He just kind of continued coming in, just randomly shooting at people, no rhyme or reason to it.”

The gunman was identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago of Anchorage, Alaska, who served in Iraq with the National Guard but was demoted and discharged last year for unsatisfactory performance. His brother said he had been receiving psychological treatment recently.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that Santiago had walked into the FBI office in Anchorage in November to say that the U.S. government was controlling his mind and making him watch Islamic State videos.

Agents questioned an agitated and disjointed-sounding Santiago and then called police, who took him for a mental health evaluation, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said Santiago did not appear intent on hurting anyone.

Authorities said the motive for the attack was under investigation. Shortly after the shooting, and before details of Santiago’s mental health became public, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said that it remained to be seen whether it was terrorism or the work of “someone who is mentally deranged.”

One witness said the attacker gunned down his victims without a word and kept shooting until he ran out of ammunition for his handgun, sending panicked travelers running out of the terminal and spilling onto the tarmac, baggage in hand.

Others hid in bathroom stalls or crouched behind cars or anything else they could find as police and paramedics rushed in to help the wounded and establish whether there were any other gunmen.

Bruce Hugon, who had flown in from Indianapolis for a vacation, was at the baggage carousel when he heard four or five pops and saw everyone drop down on the ground. He said a woman next to him tried to get up and was shot in the head.

“The guy must have been standing over me at one point. I could smell the gunpowder,” he said. “I thought I was about to feel a piercing pain or nothing at all because I would have been dead.”

It is legal for airline passengers to travel with guns and ammunition as long as the firearms are put in a checked bag – not a carry-on – and are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Guns must be declared to the airline at check-in.

Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale after taking off from Anchorage aboard a Delta flight Thursday night, checking only one piece of luggage – his gun, said Jesse Davis, police chief at the Anchorage airport.

At Fort Lauderdale, “after he claimed his bag, he went into the bathroom and loaded the gun and started shooting. We don’t know why,” said Chip LaMarca, a Broward County commissioner who was briefed by investigators.

The bloodshed is likely to raise questions of whether aviation safety officials need to change the rules.

The attack also exposed another weak point in airport security: While travelers have to take off their shoes, put their carry-on luggage through X-ray machines and pass through metal detectors to reach the gates, many other sections of airports, such as ticket counters and baggage claim areas, are more lightly secured and more vulnerable to attack.

In 2013, a gunman with a grudge against the Transportation Security Administration shot and killed one of the agency’s screeners and wounded three others during a rampage at Los Angeles International Airport. Last November, an airline worker was shot and killed near an employee parking lot at Oklahoma City’s airport, and in 2015 a machete-wielding man was shot to death after he attacked federal security officers at the New Orleans airport.

“While we have authorized doubling the number of TSA canine teams to try to prevent tragedies like this, the fact is that wherever there are crowds, such as at our airports, we remain vulnerable to these types of attacks,” Nelson said.

The Fort Lauderdale gunman said nothing as he “went up and down the carousels of the baggage claim, shooting through luggage to get at people that were hiding,” according to Lea. The killer went through about three magazines before running out of ammunition, Lea said.

“He threw the gun down and laid spread-eagle on the ground until the officer came up to him,” Lea said.

The gunman was arrested unharmed, with no shots fired by law enforcement officers, and was being questioned by the FBI, Sheriff Scott Israel said.

The condition of the wounded was not disclosed. At least one of the victims was seen lying in a pool of blood with what appeared to be a head wound.

The airport was shut down, with incoming flights diverted and outgoing flights held on the ground.

President Barack Obama was briefed by his Homeland Security adviser, the White House said. President-elect Donald Trump said that it is a “disgraceful situation that’s happening in our country and throughout the world” and that it was too soon to say whether it was a terrorist attack.

Santiago’s brother, Bryan, told the AP that his brother had been receiving psychological treatment in Alaska. He said Santiago’s girlfriend alerted the family to the situation in recent months. Bryan Santiago said that he didn’t know what his brother was being treated for and that they never talked about it.

He said Esteban Santiago was born in New Jersey and moved to Puerto Rico when he was 2. He was sent to Iraq in 2010 and spent a year there with the 130th Engineer Battalion, according to Puerto Rico National Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen. He later joined the Alaska National Guard.

The Pentagon said Santiago had gone AWOL several times during his stint with the Alaska National Guard and was demoted – from specialist to private first class – and given a general discharge, which is lower than an honorable discharge.

John Schilcher told Fox News said he came up to the baggage claim and heard the first gunshot as he picked up his bag off a carousel.

“The person next to me fell to the ground and then I started hearing other pops. And as this happened, other people started falling and you could hear it and smell it, and people on either side of me were going down and I just dropped to the ground,” said Schilcher, who was there with his wife and mother-in-law. “The firing just went on and on.”

“I was down on the floor. When we finally looked up there was a policeman standing over me,” he said. “That’s when I assumed it was safe.”

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report, reprinted with permission.

Florida Democratic congressional delegation overwhelmingly opposes President Obama on U.N. Israeli imbroglio

With just a couple of weeks before President Obama leaves the White House, Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation apparently has no qualms in not standing by him when it comes to the issue of Israel and their settlements in the Palestinian territories.

In a vote Thursday night on a resolution condemning a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at Israel settlements that the U.S. notoriously abstained on last month, not one Democratic member of the Florida Democratic House caucus backed the president, with all 11 Democrats – Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Fredericka Wilson, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Kathy Castor, Darren Soto, Stephanie Murphy, Val Demings, Ted Deutch and Al Lawson -supporting the resolution from Texas Republican Ed Royce.

The measure declared unwavering support for Israel and insisted that the United States reject any future UN actions that are similarly “one-sided and anti-Israel.” It passed, 342-80.

That includes recently freshman lawmaker Charlie Crist, who showed up late and didn’t make it to the House floor on time to cast a vote. He later issued a statement saying that he co-sponsored the resolution, but was not able to officially make his voice heard on the issue.

“As a cosponsor of this measure, I believe it is vital that the United Nations Security Council be sent a clear message that biased, one-sided resolutions targeting Israel are unacceptable and only make it more difficult for negotiations to resume between Israelis and Palestinians,” Crist said.

Wasserman Schultz, who received some heat from her constituents for backing President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, strongly supported the measure, saying in a statement that, “I voted for and cosponsored tonight’s resolution to reaffirm our unbreakable commitment to Israel, our most true and dependable Middle East ally. This resolution rightly acknowledges the United States’ longstanding policy that direct, bilateral negotiations are the only viable method for achieving peace, and that our country must reject any attempt to internationalize the peace process. We cannot allow Israel’s enemies to use international organizations like the UN to undermine and attack it. Instead, we must continue to support Israel by building on the historic Memorandum of Understanding regarding security assistance and standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel as we undertake the difficult task of obtaining a long and lasting peace.” 

Tampa Representative Kathy Castor also voted for the measure. She did not issue out a statement after her vote.

 

Pam Bondi announces website to spread awareness of human trafficking in Florida

Since beginning her tenure as Attorney General six years ago, Pam Bondi has made the combating of human trafficking in the state one of her signature issues. Appearing at Tampa International Airport on Friday morning, Bondi announced the partnership with the airport to encourage travelers to spot human trafficking and report suspicious activity. They can do so by going to a new website, YouCanStopHT.com.

“Thousands of people walk through our airport every single day,” Bondi said. “Partnering with the airport gives us a unique opportunity to spread awareness about human trafficking to thousands of people every single day.”

Bondi said regular citizens can act as the eyes and ears to observing and reporting such transgressions, citing an Uber driver out of Sacramento last week who grew suspicious after picking up a 16-year-old girl (who he originally suspected was only 12) and contacted local police. The teenager was being sold for sex at a Holiday Inn, the police reported, and her eavesdropping Uber driver had saved her. “That is proof that one person…can make a difference if you know what to look for, because sadly it is all around us,” said Bondi.

“The awareness program will be made available for all of our employees,” said Tampa International Airport Police Chief Paul Sireci.

“We’re trying to save that one person who’s drowning out there,” said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, who said he wanted to deliver a message to the people who might be sexually trafficked right now: “Your captors are lying to you,” he said, adding that his department only wants to help such victims, assuring them that if they come forward they won’t be going to jail. “You’re a victim. And we’re going to treat you like one.”

And Bondi, who joined a lawsuit with other Republican attorneys general in December of 2014 disputing President Obama’s executive order granting additional protections to millions of undocumented immigrants, said that the undocumented who are being enslaved should not worry about their status if they come out of the shadows.

“That is often how your captor will keep you – by saying we will grab you, and we will deport you, and you are not a victim. That will not happen,” she said, insisting, “We will protect you. We will keep you safe. Because you are a victim.”

Dover House Republican Ross Spano has made the issue of combating human trafficking since being elected to the Legislature in 2012. He said at the news conference that while he didn’t want to “cast any aspersions” regarding Monday night’s national college football championship game in Tampa, but he did say that the ad campaign in Tampa’s airport could only be a plus in trying to heighten awareness this weekend on the issue. Bondi said traffickers bring their victims into cities like Tampa like the NCAA championship game or next month in Houston at the Super Bowl. “That’s why we’re here at the airport.” (Some critics dispute that there are an influx of prostitutes who attend events like the Super Bowl, as this Snopes.com site alludes to).

The state of Florida has over 80 investigations of human trafficking at this time, Bondi said, and over 70 of those cases are active.

Bondi was also asked by reporters about reports about joining Donald Trump’s incoming administration. While she downplayed those reports (which you can read about here), she did say that she has talked about the issue of human trafficking with him, and said that he is “committed to fighting human trafficking in our country.”

 

 

In Tampa, Pam Bondi deflects questions about an impending move to work for Donald Trump

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi attempted to deflect questions about the possibility she may soon leave her job to join the administration of incoming U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday in Tampa.

Speaking at a news conference highlighting a new human trafficking awareness with Tampa International Airport, the Tampa native said, “I’m very happy being Attorney General of the state of Florida right now. I get to work with these great people behind me every day.”

“And,” she added, “I’m also committed to the President of the United States — elect — to make our country a better country, and get back on track.”

On Thursday, Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs reported that Bondi would take a job with the Trump White House, though no particular position was mentioned in the story. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if that were the case, as Bondi was seen visiting the President-elect in Trump Tower last month. She endorsed him at the Tampa Convention Center on the day before Florida’s presidential Republican primary election, an election that Trump won decisively, taking 66 of the state’s 67 counties. With Bondi frequently at his side at campaign events, Trump ultimately won Florida in November over Hillary Clinton by just 1.2 percentage points.

The issue of working under President-elect Trump first surfaced at the news conference at the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority’s board room at Tampa International Airport when Bondi was asked if she would be able to continue her efforts in the White House.

“That’s a good trick question. I can tell you that I talked to the President-elect for half-an-hour. We talk frequently, as well as members of his family and his transition team on many issues that don’t involve me. But he is committed to fighting human trafficking in our country. He is committed to backing up the great men and women standing behind me, and we talk about that very frequently. So whether I’m there or here as Attorney General, where I’m very happy being, by the way, I plan on staying involved in that.”

When asked if she had been invited directly by Trump to join his team, Bondi said: “I’m not going to say anything confidential, nor should anyone, including in the Obama administration.”

When a reporter asked if she had a replacement in mind if she were to leave Tallahassee for Washington, Bondi joked, ” You already have me replaced?”

“I try to be grounded,” she added. “We’re doing a lot of great things.”

If and when Bondi is selected for a position in the White House, both she and Trump will undoubtedly be asked again about the $25,000 campaign contribution that her political committee received in 2013 from Trump’s charitable foundation. Shortly afterward, Bondi’s office opted not to pursue an investigation into charges by some Florida citizens that they had been defrauded by Trump University.

After an ethics group had filed a complaint with the IRS regarding the contribution, Trump’s foundation paid a $2,500 fine to the IRS.

Bondi’s office has been vehement that they never were pursuing a case in Florida against Trump U. Although her office said she had only received one complaint, the AP reported that complaints against Trump University actually numbered in the dozens and that Bondi had personally solicited the donation from Trump weeks before she learned of the charges.

Her office decided not to pursue a case after the donation was received.

Mitch Perry Report for 1.6.16 – Big time college athletics parks in Tampa this weekend

Big time college sports makes its way to Tampa this weekend with the college football championship slated for 8 p.m. Monday evening at Raymond James Stadium.

Both teams will be arriving at Tampa International Airport this afternoon, with Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney slated to headline a press conference tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. at the Tampa Convention Center.

Don’t expect any sparking quotes from Coach Saban, who is in rarefied air as one of the greatest coaches in college football history, but seems to never enjoy any part of that success. Do sit back and watch him provide a torturous response when asked what went down with his now former offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin.

These are college students, first and foremost, though you won’t hear that much about that this weekend. Clemson graduated 84 percent of their players in 2016, and Alabama graduated 80 percent, according to the latest graduation rates released last month by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida.

There is a lot of discussion in the local media how crazy traffic conditions will be in downtown Tampa because of all the activity beginning today, but it really isn’t that big of a deal, unless you work downtown. For the rest of us, it’s a choice to come down to be part of the festivities (just don’t drive a car to get down there) unless you want to pay the rates you’d pay in New York City or Chicago for a few hours.

What I’m curious to see is how many people use the Cross-Bay Ferry, which was touted by its advocates last year to be a great transit option during this busy weekend.

Oh, wait. Nobody gets to use it tomorrow, apparently.

“Due to increased boat traffic by the convention center this weekend, the dock the ferry typically uses is not available on Saturday,” Rich Mullins, a spokesman for the ferry, told the Tampa Bay Times Rick Danielson yesterday. “A backup dock was also not available due to other operations. The online ticket system has a note that alerts travelers to the change. All other runs are still on schedule: Friday, Sunday and Monday.”

This excitement for a major football event makes me nostalgic for an event that Tampa does really well – hosting a Super Bowl. It’s been eight long years since the Cigar City hosted the ultimate game, and it may be that many years in the future before the city gets to do so again, sadly.

Last May, the NFL announced that Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles would be awarded the games for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021. Minneapolis had already been awarded the game in 2018. What do they all have in common? Well, with the exception of Miami, they’re brand new stadiums, which with the average cost these days being around $1 billion, the league has essentially rewarded those cities with the Super Bowl as a prize.

It was reported that Miami beat out Tampa for the 2020 game. While Tampa has put in approximately $100 million in stadium improvements, Miami “enhanced” their stadium to the tune of $450 million.

In other news..

Rick Kriseman has filed for re-election for mayor of St. Petersburg. The mayor is looking good in the polls to get four more  years for the public, though it could be a donnybrook if former Mayor Rick Baker chooses to re-enter into electoral politics.

Republicans dominate in Florida electoral politics, but Blaise Ingoglia wants more. The state part chairman is calling for a plan that calls for the party to overtake the Democrats in terms of party registration, where the Dems still lead the R’s by approximately 200,000 voters.

Dwight Bullard lays out his agenda for Florida Democratic Party chair. It includes a proposal to replace at least half of the FDP fundraising with donors who give less than $100 annually.

South Florida Democratic Representative Ted Deutch is calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

And the House of Representatives rejected Kathy Castor’s proposal to maintain some of the consumer friendly provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The GOP House may ultimately retain those provisions in their own replacement model, whatever year that happens to take place.

P.S. We’re shutting down MPR after today. It was originally created while this reporter was at Creative Loafing newspaper, and when I switched over to Extensive Enterprises Media in 2014, it was undecided whether we would continue the practice of having a column that was a place to hold our previous day’s stories. More than two years later, management is going to allow me a little more free time in the morning before going out and reporting on the news of the day in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Tallahassee, and all points beyond. Keep on reading!

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